Wisconsin hospitals now have access to an investigational drug that may be used to treat severe cases of the COVID-19 virus.

The Wisconsin Department of Health (DHS) announced this week that a limited supply of the drug, remdesivir, has been received from the federal government. The drug is being made available to hospitalized patients who meet clinical criteria specified under the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Emergency Use Authorization (EUA).

“This strategy is consistent with the approach taken by other states in our region, and is advantageous because hospitals may store the unused drugs at their pharmacy for use in future patients, avoiding potential treatment delays associated with requesting doses from DHS. Hospitals with small numbers of patients with COVID-19 also have the option of requesting individual treatment courses,” the DHS stated.

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According to a DHS advisory to hospitals, remdesivir remains under study but findings from several clinical trials provided preliminary evidence suggests that it has a potential benefit for some patients being treated for severe COVID-19. A limited amount of dosages were donated to the federal government by the drug’s manufacturer, Gilead Sciences. The drug was then distributed by the FDA to individual states.

Wisconsin hospitals were given the opportunity to request dosages of the drug from the DHS starting earlier this month.

The DHS reported that it received its first two shipments of remdesivir from the federal government, on May 12 and May 15. Because the number of doses received by the state was small in comparison to the number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19, DHS invited hospitals to request remdesivir in batches sufficient for 5- or 10-day treatment courses for individual patients. In the first allocation, hospitals requested treatment courses for 90 patients, and DHS distributed its entire allocation the following day, which included treatment courses for 52 patients.

A smaller number of requests were received from hospitals after Wisconsin received its second allocation on May 15. As a result, all hospitals requesting remdesivir from this allocation received the requested number of doses on May 16. For future allocations of remdesivir, including a new shipment of 26 cases on expected on Wednesday (May 20). DHS will allocate entire, unopened cases of remdesivir to hospitals, each containing 40 single dose vials.

 “Hospitals are required to provide an accurate account of the number of COVID-19 patients in their current inpatient census, and to agree to only administer remdesivir to patients in accordance with the specifications described in the Emergency Use Authorization,” according to the DHS advisory. “Failure to meet these obligations may result in loss of access to future allocations of medications through DHS. If the number of cases of remdesivir available through DHS is not sufficient to fill all requests received from hospitals, DHS will allocate the available cases by giving priority to hospitals with the greatest number of eligible COVID-19 patients,” the DHS advisory stated.”

Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for Patch.com, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.